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Give yourself the gift of a “financial stress-free” holiday this year! You deserve it. It’s been a hard-enough year.  It IS possible to celebrate without spending all of your cash or maxing out your credit cards. Stay on budget…and don’t get wrapped up in holiday spending!!  (See what I did there?)

  • Set Holiday Spending Limits

Limit yourself and give your mind a break (and your credit card) by limiting what you buy to ONLY what can safely come out of your bank account. (Or your cash amount.) How much can you actually afford to spend?

Holiday budgeting is a way to set limits on your purchases and still enjoy the season. Or maybe because of it!

The money you can reasonably spend on gifts is money that isn’t going to bills. If you want a little more to spend, it doesn’t have to be solely from what’s left after bills and expenses. Think of using the money that you would normally spend elsewhere (I’m looking at you morning latte!) As long as you are using CASH (NEVER cash advances from credit cards) without spending your money for bills, you are doing great!

  • Make Your Own ‘Naughty or Nice’ List

Santa buys presents for the whole world, by you don’t need to! If your shopping list includes more than 5 people outside your immediate family, cut down on the number of people on your present list.

Then, bake some cookies to give to all the people you snipped from that original list. You can spread the holiday cheer and keep from looking like Scrooge.

  • Be Realistic About Your Budget

Remember you may be at a different place in your financial life than other family members/friends and that’s okay. If you have any doubts as to whether those on your list will appreciate the less expensive presents you buy them, think back to what your friends or family gave to you when their budgets were tighter. There’s no doubt that you’ll both be better friends in the new year if you’re not creating debt loads for each other this year.

  • Become a Coupon and Coupon Code Collector

Sales aren’t the only way to get great deals in the gifts you want to purchase. Before you shop online, perform a quick web search for coupon codes for your favorite online stores.

Before you shop locally, comb through the coupons you receive in your mailbox. While looking at the fliers, comparison shop for the item you’re interested in. Savings can happen just by keeping your eyes peeled for deals!

  • Give the Gift of Your Time

You know what the most precious gift in the world is?  (Yes, more than gold.) TIME!  Each person only gets a limited amount. Think about that. You know what many family members would love? More time with you or your time helping them! You can use the coupon idea: “free night of babysitting” or “good for one home-cooked meal”, etc.

  • Build Better Spending Habits

Get over the how-am-I-going-to-pay-off-my-credit-cards-next-month anxiety by giving yourself the gift of developing new and improved spending habits! Seriously, the gift that keeps giving!

For example, for every dollar that you spend on gifts, you could find a way to remove that dollar from your regular spending. Around the holidays, you can use those savings to buy presents, but next month – and the rest of the year – what you save can go into your savings account.

  • Provide Personalized Gifts

A small, thoughtful gift is worth more than an expensive gift that someone may never use. Avoid impulses to shop at trendy stores and start the holiday by taking a moment to think about what those on your list could really use.

For example, if your sister loves to bake but can’t get the hang of homemade pie crusts, you could buy her a simple pastry-making tool for less than $10 and include a copy of a fool-proof recipe.

You get the idea. Thoughtful is key. Think about this: do you remember what you received last year? If it was meaningful, I bet you do!

  • Organize Group Volunteering vs. Holiday Parties

Guess what?  Your friends and family probably struggle with overspending as much as you do over the holidays. Give them the relief of forgoing buying gifts for you by organizing a group volunteer day instead. It’s possible to volunteer virtually, too. You’ll come out feeling proud of your efforts rather than suffering from buyer’s remorse, and anyone can benefit from volunteering.

Key Takeaways

  • Sticking to a budget is a good way to keep yourself out of debt during any time of year.
  • Controlling your holiday spending is an essential aspect of a healthy financial life.
  • Alternative gifts, such as volunteering or handmade goods, are ways to save money during the holiday season.

The Bottom Line

Don’t let your debt become the Grinch that robs from your holiday season. Base your gift buying on sentiment rather than dollar value and avoid giving yourself a year-round debt headache.

Portions excerpted from: Investopedia, Reyna Gobel

Holli Lewandowski, Certified Credit Counselor, Educator, and Advocate